Anti-frackers celebrate Cuomo, for now

Capital New York | January 20, 2015 | Column by Scott Waldman

ALBANY—After years of protesting Andrew Cuomo's State of the State addresses, anti-fracking activists will be throwing parties on Wednesday to toast the governor instead.

Organizations including Frack Action and New Yorkers Against Fracking will stage a thank you rally by the Capitol before the speech, while is holding a celebration at the Hilton near the Capitol with live music. And a coalition of local anti-fracking groups will continue the celebrations into the night, with an event at Crossroads Brewery in Greene County.

The thank-you rallies will lack the numbers, to say nothing of the drama, of the anti-Cuomo rallies of the past, back before the administration wrapped up a dragged-out health-impact study of fracking late last year.

But that doesn't mean the anti-frackers are done protesting—or that their friendliness toward Cuomo is going to last. 

Even now, as the groups celebrate their role in pushing Cuomo to ban fracking in New York, some disagreement is apparent within the movement between activists who want to continue to fight the state's reliance on fossil fuels and those who want to pause, at least, and give Cuomo the credit they feel he's due.

This was evident when some activists planned to protest the State of the State speech with banners calling for a ban on oil trains, prompting prominent anti-fracking activist Sandra Steingraber of Ithaca College to ask for a temporary reprieve from protests to recognize that the governor heard their concerns. 

Susan Weber of said it's important to recognize what the governor did before moving on to other issues.

“We're going to give him a day to say thanks, then we're going to say what about the bomb trains, the pipelines and what about the compressor stations,” she said.

Despite the ban on fracking—or in some cases because of it—New Yorkers are feeling the effects of energy booms in other states.

Oil trains laden with millions of gallons of North Dakota crude rumble through hundreds of New York communities every day. There are multiple pipelines awaiting final state approval that will bring gas fracked in Pennsylvania as the state gets more of its heat and electricity from natural gas. On the same day the administration banned fracking, the Cuomo-led Long Island Power Authority rejected a massive wind farm off of Long Island.

And while Cuomo may have followed the polls with his decision on fracking, that ban may not signal any coming crackdown on other, less prominently controversial projects. 

Sandy Steubing, of Albany's People United for Safe Energy, said that while they regard the governor's fracking ban as a major victory, they expect other areas of disgreement on energy policy to come quickly to the fore.

Still, after planning originally to demonstrate at Cuomo's annual speech with “Ban the bomb trains” banners, her group will instead hold signs that thank the governor. Call it a moratorium.

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Anti-frackers celebrate Cuomo, for now
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.